There are many reasons to send high school students on mission trips. As a youth pastor, I often get questions from parents like, “Why are you wanting to send students overseas when there is so much work to be done here?” I often get the same question even with stateside trips that we take across the country.
But though it is true that there is work to be done here, it is still important for high school students to go on international mission trips. At the church where I serve, mission trips provide us with the opportunity to see students grow in their understanding that God can use them to make his name known. Mission trips are an important part of our strategy of seeing those who are far from God become committed followers of Jesus Christ.
All short-term teams should take the attitude of learners, willing to listen to long-term missionaries and serve them well during the trip. Short-term trips are first and foremost an opportunity to take the vital message of the gospel to the nations.
But there are other reasons high school student, in particular, should go on short-term trips. The list below is not exhaustive, but here are seven reasons high school students should go on mission trips.
1. God commands believers to go.
God’s command for all believers to go is, without question, the number one reason high school students should go on mission trips. Though the practical application of the Great Commission will look different for different people, all believers should go if they are able—whether short-term or long-term. God has commanded all believers to go, continue going, and to make disciples of all nations. Short-term international mission trips are a great way to fulfill God’s command for believers to go.
2. Mission trips provide an opportunity to show high school students the reality of overseas missions.
It is hard for students who have never been on an international mission trip to understand the reality of overseas missions. They may understand the necessity and urgency of international missions when they listen to an international missionary or church planter talk about the work they do.
“The closer students get to the work, the more they realize that international missions just takes the obedience of ordinary believers to the call of God.”
What is not easy, however, is understanding that what happens in international missions/church planting is not much different from what we do here in the US. Context and culture are different, but the work is the same. The way you approach the work is different, but the necessity of the work is the same. From far away, it’s easy to think that international missions is something only elite Christians do, but the closer students get to the work, the more they realize that international missions just takes the obedience of ordinary believers to the call of God.
3. Mission trips help high school students gain a better perspective of God’s global purpose.
There is much work to be done in the US. But there is also much work to be done overseas. As mentioned above, God’s command to go doesn’t require all believers to commit their lives to overseas missions, but it is necessary for all believers to join in the work through prayer. The closer a high school student is or has been to the work, the easier it is for them to have a global perspective and understand the need for prayer.
International mission trips also help students gain a better perspective on what heaven will be like. Revelation 7:9–11 is a beautiful passage that gives us insight into God’s global purpose—all nations worshiping him in the new heavens and new earth. Taking students on international mission trips gives them the opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven as they worship with other people in other languages and in another context.
4. God can use short term mission trips to call high school students to full-time overseas missions.
As Ephesians 2:10 explains, the work to which God calls all believers was decided before the creation of the world. As students seek to fulfill the mission of God, God will reveal his call on their life. This can happen regardless of whether students go on international mission trips. But sending students on overseas mission trips is one of the best ways to help them understand how God can use them for his mission.
5. Mission trips show students they can use their gifts and talents strategically for the mission of God in an overseas context.
Sending high school students on overseas mission trips, as they prepare to head to college, can help them see how they can use their resources, gifts, and passions strategically for the mission of God in an overseas context.
“Taking students on international mission trips gives them the opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven as they worship with other people in other languages and in another context.”
Whether it’s financially supporting the work of overseas missions or making college and career choices with the intention of being overseas, everyone can use their gifts to fulfill the mission of God. Mission trips help high school students see and understand that reality.
6. Mission trips provide great opportunities for discipleship.
If you take a high school student on an international mission trip, you will inevitably get questions about life (in general) and theology. Questions like, “Why do the people here not have the same access to the gospel that we have?” Or, “How is it that God can send people to hell who never actually had the opportunity to reject the gospel?”
Taking or sending high school students on mission trips provides an amazing opportunity to walk students through hard questions like these. As some of the hard questions are answered, students are able to understand why fulfilling the Great Commission everywhere they go (in the States, overseas, in school, and in the workplace) is necessary work that should be done with a sense of urgency.
7. Mission trips are fun!
Overseas mission trips will leave high school students with a burden for the nations, and rightly so. There is much at stake on mission trips as students look through the lens of eternity. Not only are they encountering people who do not know Jesus, but they also need to pay careful attention to their work as they make sure they are truly helping the full-time missionaries with whom they are working.
Though a burden for the nations has a tendency to be, well, burdensome, high school students can also have fun joining in the work that God is doing around the world. With the right attitude, students can enjoy the travel, hanging out and worshiping with other believers, learning how to speak through a translator, contextualizing an explanation of the gospel, and hearing stories from brothers and sisters around the world. International mission trips will give students memories that will last a lifetime—memories that will remind them of all that God is doing around the world.
Shaq Hardy currently serves as the student pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church. He is also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. His passion is to help people love God and others by knowing God and making his name known.
To learn more about preparing, training, and best practices for short-term teams, click here.